By ADRIAN TAHOURDIN
In June 1964 Nelson Mandela and seven fellow political prisoners were sent to Robben Island to begin life sentences. At what became known as the Rivonia Trial, in Pretoria, Mandela and his co-defendants were found guilty of sabotage and conspiracy to violently overthrow the government. (It was at this trial that Mandela made his famous lengthy peroration from the dock, concluding that the “ideal of a democratic and free society” is one “for which I am prepared to die”.)
Mandela spent eighteen years on Robben Island. In March 1982, he and three other prisoners (including Walter Sisulu) were given thirty minutes to pack their belongings and transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town. And in October 1988, in anticipation of his release, Mandela was moved again, this time to relatively comfortable quarters at the Victor Verster Prison in Paarl, some 60 km north-east of Cape Town. When he was released on February 11, 1990, in front of the world’s TV cameras, it was from the prison in Paarl that he emerged accompanied by Winnie Mandela, one fist raised in defiance (two would have suggested premature triumph, Mandela later explained).